As we hike through a mountainous eastern Oregon wilderness, I feel that dip in my stomach, like the moment before you plunge down a roller coaster hill as I think about the man walking in front of me on the trail.
I feel solid in footing and grateful for the chance to be living a life with him. I feel, after knowing him for 8 months, that he had become my closest friend, ally and partner. I also know that Dave would be so happy to know that I was feeling all those things again. It sure didn't feel like I ever would.
When we stop to eat lunch next to a mirror-calm alpine lake, the feelings intensify and something tells me to tell him exactly what is in my heart and mind. I tend to do the vast majority of my thinking about emotions internally and only very little externally so I had held the thoughts and feelings inside all morning, rolling them around in my mind, looking at them from all sides.
When the thoughts won't leave me alone, I know it's time to say something.
I wrap my arms around his waist and he wraps his around my shoulders and rests his chin on the top of my head.
Into his chest I tell him I'm so excited for our future together.
You are? he whispers wistfully.
Yes. I want to be your wife.
The words feel like tiny tender seedlings, so determined and yet so vulnerable.
You do? he says again, with gratitude making his voice lilt at the end.
Are you proposing to me? he asks.
Yeah. I think I am! The words grow in power.
Hold on he says. And he breaks our warm circle of arms and turns away from me, toward his backpack.
Abrupt and unlike him, but okay, whatever I think. He tells me he is cold and getting his coat, but why in the middle of such a momentous conversation?
And then, as I watch him pull out his jacket and unzip the small chest pocket, I know. I sit down next to him on a downed tree trunk. I silently watch his every movement in disbelief. I should've known. I guess I did, somehow, actually know. In someplace other than my mind.
Will you marry me? he asks and he hands me his grandmother's ring. The one he'd told me about but I hadn't seen yet.
At first, the shock. How could I have proposed to him and then the ring shows up here in the middle of nowhere? Then, the realization. He'd been planning it all along.
He'd been just about to propose when I beat him to it.
Then, the tears, from both of us and the laughter at the delight of being on the same wavelength yet again. Then a tight hug and several happy, laughing kisses. The ring is too big to fit so we zip it back up safely. It is now so precious to me.
Did I ruin it? I ask him, suddenly realizing that I might have stolen his thunder.
No! he says,
You made it so much more special!
Relief. Joy. More tears. We hike on, grinning.
Even a year ago, I never could have imagined how much hope I'd have for the future again or how full my heart would once again feel.
Here we go.